Blog Startup Journey

How we got more than 1,500 survey responses with a last-minute scramble

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Three days before releasing our survey, we realized that we were totally unprepared. Here’s how we rallied our way back…

This is part thirteen in our ongoing series, Journey to $100K a Month. Earlier posts can be found here.

I’d love to say that we had a rock-solid strategy in place well before we launched our survey.

I’d love to say that we systematically reverse-engineered our path to success.

I’d love to, but I can’t.

The fact is, we were treating the 2013 SaaS Small Business Conversion Survey like any other blog post on our editorial calendar.

Sure, we’d share it with our subscribers and ask folks to pass it on, but beyond that, we hadn’t really thought about promotion.

…until three days before we were scheduled to launch it.

I was getting ready to power down for the day, and decided to give the survey another quick read-through before calling it quits.

“Well, shit,” I realized as I reached the end.

We were asking for a hell of a lot.

Our usual ask of our readers is to leave a comment and share the post. A few seconds of effort, and plenty of incentive if they think our content will be valuable to their friends.

But this?

We were asking people not only to take five minutes — about 1,000% more time than usual — to fill out a survey, but we were asking for data that, for many, would require digging through internal numbers to come up with. On top of that, we wanted data that most people would cringe at the thought of sharing.

Not a small request, to be sure.

The following morning, our team huddled and brainstormed how we could extend the reach of the survey, and get as many people as possible to take the time and fill it out.

The ensuing scramble may very well have saved our survey…

Putting together prizes that people actually wanted

One tactic that we shamelessly stole from dozens of other companies who had successfully asked readers to participate in events, surveys and contests was to give away prizes.

My first thought was to put a $100 Amazon gift card as a grand prize.

Thinking about it now, that probably would have gotten us a total of four responses (and mine would be 1/4 of them).

The prizes had to be big, and they had to be desirable.

We thought about what we would want if we were in the running, and came up with a “dream list” of prizes.

The total value of our prize list?

Over $7,000.


We certainly didn’t have that kind of budget for this. So we got to work.

Title: The email that netted thousands of dollars in prizes, Subject: quick question, Hey Bill, I know you’re super busy, so I’ll keep this short :) We’re launching a big SaaS conversion survey over on the [Groove blog]( later this week, and one of the prizes I’d love to offer up a prize from COMPANY. Can I count you in? My goal is to get conversion/user acquisition data from as many SaaS small businesses as possible, and share our learnings with the whole community. Would also love your help promoting the survey. We’ll be pushing it live on Thursday. Would you be interested in promoting via blog/social? Thanks! Alex P.S. COMPANY will have prime placement on our prize board, and we’ll be promoting the heck out of it to our 6K+ subscribers and 100K+ visitors :)

Surprisingly (to me), every single company we emailed said yes.

In the end, we were able to offer:

We threw in ten three-month subscriptions to Groove, ten signed copies of Gary Vaynerchuk’s book (I bought 500 of these when he was doing a big promotional push), and two tickets to the Business of Software Conference, and we finally had a prize list to be proud of.

What impact did the prizes have on the outcome? Unfortunately, it’s not something we could track, but my gut tells me it was significant.

And anecdotally, I got dozens of emails from people “requesting” to win specific prizes.

(For the record, we picked the winners using

Takeaway: People love prizes, but they have to be big enough to warrant what you’re asking. With the right strategy, offering thousands of dollars (or more) in prizes doesn’t have to cost you anything.

Getting partners on board

One big side benefit to our prize collection efforts was the team of rock-star partners it led us to.

Every company who put up prizes got their logo on our blog, aligning our brands. They now had skin in the game.

And best of all, the reach of our group of partners, put together, is massively wider than the reach of our own blog.

When all was said and done, traffic from Tweets like these accounted for more than 20% of the survey click-throughs from our blog:

Partner Tweets brought in big traffic: Three tweets sharing the survey post from @AndrewWarner, @joelgascoigne, and @hnshah

Takeaway: Think outside of your own audience, and come up with ways you can incentivize other influencers to get involved. The value is not only in the traffic numbers they can deliver; the validation they offer can clear a lot of hurdles in getting people to do what you’re asking.

Promotion and Repetition

With a big ask like ours, we didn’t think that a single post on our blog would bring in a ton of responses.

And sure enough, our first post (not counting the partner Twitter traffic from above) netted only a couple hundred responses.

We needed to stay in front of people, and doing that took two tactics:

First, we cleared the rest of our editorial calendar for the next couple of weeks and dedicated the rest of December to campaign for survey responses on the blog.

We published a follow-up post — Our Metrics REVEALED: Revenue, Churn, Conversions and More — that pulled the curtain back on our own responses to the survey, followed by a call-to-action prompting readers to go to the survey.

The key here was that it wasn’t another post parroting the same message; frankly, that would be annoying.

We made sure that this post met the same criteria as our regular posts: interesting, valuable and fun to read.

The repetition paid off, and this second post brought in nearly 40% more responses than the first one did.

Second, we pulled an appropriately metrics-focused post out of our own blog queue, added info about the survey at the end, and pitched it to KISSmetrics as a guest blog post.

Pitching a guest blog post email: Hey Lars, I’m currently working on a piece that I was going to use to promote the post on our blog, but I think it would work well for the KISSmetrics blog. It’s about using metrics to spot “red flags” in customer behavior: How to track engagement to spot (and stop) abandonment before it happens, How monitoring user behavior can tell you when a customer is stuck on something (most customers won’t tell you; they’ll simply leave), How to determine — using metrics — which customers are your most highly qualified leads to ask for referrals
If this sounds like something you’d be interested in running, would be happy to send it your way. Just let me know what kind of availability you have in your editorial calendar. Thanks, Alex

The piece — How One SaaS Startup Reduced Churn 71% Using “Red Flag” Metrics — was relevant to their audience, and they agreed to publish it.

The post performed very well on their blog (in fact, we still get traffic from it). This extended our reach far beyond our own audience, and kept the survey in people’s minds.

Takeaway: As long as it’s valuable, interesting and relevant, content marketing is incredibly valuable for promoting, well, just about anything.

What made this all possible

Truthfully, I suspect none of this would have worked out the same way if we didn’t have three things:

The thing is, we didn’t have any of those things just six months ago.

We got them all simply by executing on the content marketing and engagement strategies.

With some effort and smartly-applied strategy, any business can replicate (or top) these results.

If, a few months from now, you think you may need a last-minute scramble to succeed, the time to start executing is now.

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From “aha” to “oh shit”, we’re sharing everything on our journey to $10M in annual revenue. We’re learning a lot and so will you.

About the Author

Alex Turnbull is the CEO & Founder of Groove (simple helpdesk software for small businesses) who loves to build startups and surf.

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